Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

How to Reduce the Risk of Fall-related Injuries

Each year, 3 million Americans aged 65+ are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries. Of them, over 800,000 require hospitalization due to their injuries, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. In fact, more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling.

5 Facts About Falling

1. 60% of all falls take place at home.
2. Most fall injuries in the home happen at ground level, not from an elevation.
3. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults.
4. More than one out of four Americans age 65+ falls each year.
5. Falls are the leading cause of the traumatic brain injury in older adults, with the greatest incidence in 83-90 years old.

 

To raise awareness of the potentially life-altering risk falls present, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) observes Fall Prevention Awareness Week in early September to coincide with the start of (you guessed it) fall. This year’s awareness campaign runs September 18th through the 22nd.

With over half of all falls taking place in the home, NCOA encourages individuals and family members to examine their homes for fall risks. With a few simple modifications, you create a space that is not only safe, but is both comfortable and supports independence.

Here’s a look at a few things you can do to minimize fall risks in the home:

Clear the way: Remove tripping hazards, like throw rugs, power cords, or clutter on the floor. If you must have a rug in the bathroom, make sure it has a no-slip bottom. Re-arrange furniture to create a path for safe movement and remove boxes, books, or other items stored on the floor.

Shine a light: Good lighting is key to safely navigating throughout your home. During the day, open curtains, or blinds to let in natural light. Add extra lighting, such as night-lights in hallways and light strips on steps, and install a night-light or motion-sensor lighting in the bathroom to provide adequate light for nighttime visits to the bathroom. Replace lightbulbs throughout the home with bright, non-glare bulbs and keep a flashlight by the bed in case you need to get up when the power has gone out.

Have a seat: Place a sturdy chair in your bedroom so you can sit securely when getting dressed and avoid getting dressed while seated on the edge of your mattress.

Secure the bathroom: Install a shower seat and grab bars near the shower and toilet and consider installing a higher toilet or a seat extender. Use a non-slip bathmat and/or rug and place a non-slip mat or decals on the floor of the shower or bathtub. If possible, place shelves at eye level so you don't have to reach up into a cabinet or bend down to look for toiletries and other items.

Organize for ease of access: Throughout the home, store frequently used items between waist and shoulder height to eliminate the need for bending or using a stepstool to access items.

If you’re concerned about falling or about a loved one, you may want to consider getting a personal emergency response system. Worn as a necklace or bracelet, these systems are designed to call 911 with the push of a button.

*Note, there may be a fee for this service that’s not covered by insurance. SVHC Auxiliary does provide funding to individuals who may have trouble affording these devices.  To learn more, call  (802) 447-5089 or click here to access an online registration form.

 

Pam Duchene, PhD, APRN-BC is the Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at Southwestern Vermont Health Care.

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